2015 Thesis: “Construction of Philippine Muslim Identity: An Exploratory Ethnography of Values” by Robin C. Asbury

Understanding the psyche and motivations of Muslims has been an increasingly popular topic discussion. Popular media that tries to dissect the issue has a tendency to essentialize Islam and Muslims, which is a disservice to one of the world’s most diverse religions. This thesis examines how 16 individual Philippine Muslims construct their religious identity and what their construction says about their underlying values that make up their Muslim identity. Using personal interviews as the primary source of information, the study delves into their personal history, culture, and their conflicts to help elucidate how they view their religion and themselves as Muslims. Many informants tended to describe what Islam is in common ways, centered around the profession of faith – though others provided more emotional and/or novel ways of framing their view of faith. Conflicts relating to culture were a common trend in the respondents’ narratives, which in part led to transcultural/universalist understanding of Islam. Several informants also hold varying degrees plurality tolerance – some being wholly exclusivist to those that accepted differences in beliefs as an undeniable reality. Despite these commonalities, this study shows that the emotional and cognitive understanding of what these values mean and how they came to be part of the religious identity construction differs from individual to individual.


2015 Thesis: “The Practices of Pagsanda among the Muslims in Zamboanga City: An Exploratory Study Towards the Establishment of a Shariah Compliant Padjak (Ar-Rahnu)” by Alan L. Timbayan

Padjak or Pawnshops are economic institution that existed among the Moros a long time ago. It was introduced by the Chinese settlers in the Southern part of the Philippines. Pawnshops specialize in the business of making cash advances for person who pledges goods in security for payment. The pledges which are mainly gold and jewelry, ‘bulawan’ or ‘pamulawan’ are held as collateral until the period of redemption expires. The continuous increase in number of pawnshop today is attributed to the fact that there is a very good response towards pawnshop business and the majority of borrowers ‘magsasandah’ are from the lower income social strata or the poor people.

The practice of pagsanda in Zamboanga City is not Shari’ah compliant and despite the prohibition of riba, Muslim resort to pagsanda as a means to alleviate their financial conditions. The establishment of Ar-Rahnu or Islamic pawn broking in Zamboanga City is expected to be a good alternative for the existing system of pawning. This paper discusses the operations of the conventional pawnshop; Ar-Rahnu or Islamic pawn broking; and also Riba (usury). The analysis also find out that majority of the borrowers, ulama and businessmen are in favor of the establishment of Ar-Rahnu or Islamic pawn broking to help the poor in the needy.


2015 Thesis: “Pagtuhan: The Taosug Gnosis as a Living Tradition” by Darwin J. Absari

Pagtuhan is define as ‘pangila ha Tuhan’ (recognition of God) which requires knowledge and witnessing of the object of knowledge. It is practiced, transmitted, and kept intact by Taosug Mystics known as the Mukali (literally diggers). This paper is an exposition of the philosophy, teachings, and methods of Pag-Tuhan, from an exploration of its influences from its beginnings in the 5th century, until the introduction of Islam to the communities of the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao in the 13th century, and onwards to the spiritual tradition as practiced today. Pag-Tuhan is analyzed through the lens of Ma’rifa (gnosis) in classical Islamic thought, using the model devised by Sufi masters. Taosug society is then analyzed through the lens of Pag-Tuhan, to identify the scope and effects of Pag-Tuhan through history, within practicing individuals, families, communities, and the greater society.

To form a comprehensive picture of Pag-Tuhan, the researcher, a practitioner of more than two decades, obtained primary and secondary data through the following sources:

  1. personal experience and observation
  2. interviews with Mukali guru and other practitioners
  3. field visits to the various stations (tampat) of the Makhdumin and other Sufi masters/ Mukali and interviews with their caretakers (who are usually themselves descendants of the Sufi masters and practitioners themselves)
  4. personal collection and commentary of Taosug mystical poetry (Daman) and Taosug mystical songs
  5. narrations of Taosug elders
  6. oral traditions
  7. Kitab Kamaasan (Book of the Elders) obtained from various Mukali

To relate Pag-Tuhan from within the thought and practice of other spiritual traditions, translations of classical text as well as their commentaries were also consulted.

The study reveals that Pag-Tuhan is the product of an evolution of gnosis, as it has been influenced by concepts and practices from Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism through centuries of economic and socio-political intercourse with the neighboring regions. Its greatest contributor, and the completion of its concept of gnosis, is through the knowledge brought by the Makdumin. Unlike the Indo-Malaysian Islamization, the coming of Islam to Sulu was marked by the teaching of contemplation of Allah in the 13th century through Tuan Mashaika; the teaching of Divine love, the lȃhil sambahayang (outward worship) through Karimul Makhdum; and fulfillment of the political aspects of Islam through the formation of the sultanate and the practice of the Islamic Law (shariah) through Shariful Hashim.

An analysis of Pag-Tuhan’s philosophy, teaching, and practices show that it is intimately connected to the way of the Sufis. Its emphasis on knowledge and purification as a path towards Divine Love, on inner worship and contemplation of the self, the creation of Man, the primordial covenant, and the circular path to Allah, his necessary ascent to attain closeness to God and the descent back to practice his worship in society. It is notable that Pag-Tuhan is in concordance with the models of Ma’arifa put forward by Imam Ghazali, Mawlana Rumi, and Shayk Ibn ‘Arabi.

Pag-Tuhan was presented as a complete system for the guidance of Mystics and those who wish to attain closeness to Allah. While similar on essence to Sufism, it has developed its own means of conceptualizing, presenting, and practicing Ma’arifa. Moreover, it has concepts and experiences carried over from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, as well as particular concepts unique to Pag-Tuhan. A framework for the spiritual journey of Mukali was also presented.

In this thesis, Pag-Tuhan is identified as the essence of Taosug culture and society, the source of their knowledge, the reason for their bravery, and their hope for the future. The special characteristic of Taosug people, in their building of an empire and their capacity to defend it for more than three hundred years of colonial pressure is traced back to the strong presence of Pag-Tuhan within the social fabric.

Indeed, the practice of Pag-Tuhan is not limited by time nor space, not even by death. Many Mukali have been taught by masters such as Khidr, Shayk Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani, Shaikh Ibn ‘Arabi, the Makhdumin, and even the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his companions. In these troubled times, Pag-Tuhan remains strong through the practices of Mukali not only in the rural interior but also of those who have integrated in formal society as professionals and public servant. Truly, the presence of the Mukali, the Manusiya Sabbunal (Real Man), from among the ranks of the Tausog, and the knowledge that they hold in the form of Pag-Tuhan, are treasures that are kept safe and pure for generations to come.


2015 Thesis: “Cyberspace Da’wah: A Study on Muslim Filipinos Online” by Luqman L. Bin Usman Imam

This study was conducted among Muslim Filipinos Online who themselves conduct and participate in Cyberspace Da’wah. The following objectives of this study are (1) To know what is Cyberspace Da’wah; (2) To discern how Muslim Filipinos conduct Cyberspace Da’wah; (3) To know the goals of Cyberspace Da’wah; (4) To identify what types of people participate in Cyberspace Da’wah; (5) To identify the trending topics in Cyberspace Da’wah; and (6) To know the effects of Cyberspace Da’wah.

The study revealed that the Cyberspace Da’wah is doing da’wah in a medium of communication (Internet) to spread the true message of Islam to people in farthest places.

Muslim Filipinos conduct cyberspace Da’wah with the popular use of social media such as Facebook and Youtube by posting, sharing da’wah materials and uploading Da’wah videos. In Cyberspace Da’wah, the goals of da’i (caller/propagator) is to send the true message/value of Islam, likewise, mad’u (audience/seeker) goal is to receive the true values/message of Islam.

Interestingly, most of the people who participate in Cyberspace Da’wah are non-degree course holders in Islamic Studies. They acquired Islamic knowledge through informal learning and a large number of them are graduates of Ibtida’I (Elementary). Undauntingly, their sincerity to fulfill their obligation as ambassador of Islam made themselves involve in Cyberspace Da’wah.

The trending topics in Cyberspace Da’wah are the most sought after knowledge regarding Tawheed (Oneness of Allah). Sunnah/Hadith and discussions of comparative religion and contemporary issues. Cyberspace Da’wah has meaningful effects on the life, creed conversion and attachment of mad’u (audience/seeker) to Islam.

It is concluded that Cyberspace Da’wah has beneficial advantage and to strengthen this foundation, it is recommended that there must be established rules and regulations for the conduct and exercise of Cyberspace Da’wah.


2016 Thesis: “Zakat Institution: A Study on its Contribution to the Community Development in Talipao, Sulu” by Alpha Jairi Untih

This study is entitled “Zakat Institution: A Study on its Contribution to the Community Development in Talipao, Sulu”. It aimed to provide answers of the following inquiries:

  1. How is the Zakat institution in Taliapao organized?
  2. What are the contributions of zakat institution to the development of this area?
  3. What are the challenges faced by the zakat institution in Talipao?
  4. What is the prospect of zakat institution in Talipao?

The study are divided into four divisions.

  1. Institutionalization of Zakat in Talipao
  2. Contribution to community development
  3. Challenges faced by the zakat institution
  4. Prospect of the zakat institution

The institutionalization of zakat in Taliapao is not accurately and highly specialized but it is only suitable to the ability and power that could be done by people of Talipao as a Zakat institution but not highly institutionalized. It is only appropriate to the level standard of the adat (tradition) of the community. Fortunately, it could give realization to the mind of the individual Muslim in Talipao.

Furthermore, zakat institution had already materialized some developments in Talipao, Sulu that people of said community can at least be having a suitable comfort in terms of worship in the masjid and knowing Islam in the madrasah. In addition, there is also a dividend from zakat institution given to the needy and poor individuals as their suitable livelihood assistance.

The Da’wah Al-Islamiyyah is also conducted in the Talipao community; the people acquired Islamic knowledge and understanding that can lead them to worship Allah (SWT) alone properly in a manner of the Prophetic Sunnah. They have seen the reality of Islam that is being glittered under the teaching process of Da’awah Islamiyyah.

Under the development in Talipao, individual student have learned Islamic science under the principle of Islamic education which is conducted in a madrasahn created in Talipao. However, they use Islam in a way that can lead them to comfortable living and support their Islamic morality.

This principle has served them as their wisdom and philosophy in their life. Even the zakat institution has faced challenges such as management, organization, process and mostly war between the MNLF and GRP during the Marcos regime in the early 1970s. However, with all the challenges that zakat institutions have faced, the institution has a prospect beyond Talipao, Sulu. It dreams to remain in touch with its goals and objectives of the future of the Talipao through one generation after another. It has been aiming to remain steadfast and determined to continue the mission of forefathers and to the future progress in Talipao, Sulu.

The researcher is recommending that the zakat institution in Talipao must maintain the good outlook of the organization, management and process of the zakat institution so that it can provide strong resistance of the organization including its program objectives that are being carried out in the process of the implementation of its plan and development in the Talipao community as a whole.

It should be doing its obligation and duties on every activities being done. Its tendency is that can it can maintain its determination to survive along the process in all its objective with all constituent including all inhabitants of Talipao and their necessities throughout life. This must be done correctly in light of Islamic principles and teachings as well as its wisdom.